Thursday, March 31, 2005

T-Minus 79 Hours

A smorgasbord of random natterings while wondering which will last longer: David Wells' back or Randy Johnson's knee.

1. Recently picked up the Sports Pack on DirectTV, giving me access to NESN and Fox Sports New England, among numerous other excellent time-wasting options. In case anyone had any questions about whether the Sox' World Series championship had dulled my, um, passion for the game, my ball-throwing tantrum in the wake of 2 boneheaded fielding efforts by Trot Nixon against the Devil Rays last weekend ought to put that to rest. I not only surprised the hell out of my daughters and wife, I managed to shock even myself at my lunatic rantings during a spring training contest. Note to readers: the kinder, gentler, MLC will not be shown at this local multiplex.

2. This morning's Washington Post notes that the steroid "expert" chosen to testify on behalf of Major League Baseball at the recent Congressional hearings is, well...he's a liar in the best tradition of George O'Leary. Kudos to Bud and the gang - just when we thought you couldn't handle the steroids question any more clumsily, you go and...totally redeem yourself. Okay, not really - we'll go to extreme lengths to get Dumb 'n Dumber quotes into our prose. Selig, et al, are still stunningly stupid on this topic. It's almost as if they think that chicks dig the longball.

3. Since we're three short days from the season-opening tilt (or, if you prefer ESPN's version, apocalyptic thriller) between the Sox and Yankees, this seems a good time to reinforce the MLC credo. We are not - by inclination, intelligence, or work ethic - here to deliver you well-reasoned statistical analysis, though we may throw out some random OPS and ERA+ references here and there to set ourselves apart from that idiot Joe Morgan. If you're looking for critical insight into the relative merits of John Halama versus Scott Kazmir (ooh, sorry - that might sting a bit), you're in the wrong room. Though Whitney is likely to rip off a few good nicknames for either or both of those lefty hurlers at some point in the season. However, if you want no-holds-barred fandom, full of passionate (insane?) rantings and melancholy mutterings on the myriad ways in which Tim Wakefield both infuriates and inspires, combined with fond memories of Art Howe's haircut and shared manlove of Pedro Martinez, welcome aboard - we hope you'll stick around.

4. I'm the proud holder of 4 tickets to the Washington Nationals' franchise home opener. Who loves me? And how are you willing to prove it?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Barry, You Ignorant Slut

Our readers come to us because we're the blogosphere's leading purveyors of poorly reasoned, off-the-cuff reactions to the issues of the day. Wait, I'm confusing us with Sean Hannity. Nevermind. No, you come to us for futile venting about Major League Baseball, and in appreciation of your loyalty, I'm happy to oblige.

Most of the free world has by now seen footage of Barry Bonds' narcissistic whining in the wake of his recent knee surgery. Real-live journalists have responded, roundly criticizing Bonds for any number of sins, real or perceived. And don't get me wrong, most of them are real from where I sit. Nobody, though, has latched on to the thing that bothered me most about the whole shameful circus.

Bonds' self-pity reached epic heights as he tilted against the assembled windmills, crying, "You did it. You finally brought me down." I will grant that the media has not been Barry's friend over his career. (Forget for a moment that most of that reaction stems from the overwhelming evidence that he is a colossal, unmitigated prick.) But - and please correct me if I'm mistaken here - Barry's recent presser focused on his knee injury. Unless the media actually caused such injury, we can add "What is moron?" to the Jeopardy category, "Words that describe Barry Bonds."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Shameless Waste of Ammunition

Seems awfully early in the season to be tossing out what is nearly certain to be the season's best post - and the preceding effort may well be the best entry in the history of this darkened corner of the blogworld. Hard act to follow. So, in keeping with my long-held theory (sort of a lazy man's Occam's Razor) that the easy path is generally the best, I'll just stop right here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Don't Put That Hanky Away Just Yet

I re-read the Win It For . . . thread, and, after I had a good, hard cry for an hour or so, I got to thinking. Why should the Red Sox have the market cornered on such a free-flowing, emotional gesture? 86 years? Hell, half of those posts were saying things like "Win it for Trot Nixon," "Win it for my loyal cocker spaniel," and "Win it for my 6-month-old" -- not exactly longtime sufferers for the cause. Sure, the sad posts involved grandparents who were duped into believing year after year that the Sox could win the World Series without a tremendously skewed economic system in their favor. But there are just as many people to win it for here in Mets Township -- players, personnel, and fans -- as there are in Red Sox Nation. Here's a sampling:

Win it for Art Howe, so he can finally put the Mets chapter behind him and get back to the fishing he was thinking about for two years in the dugout.

Win it for all of the people of the world who came to America, saw the limousine bandwagon of "NEW YORK YANKEES," and said, "Screw it, I'll be a Mets fan." You're here one week and already you make a blunder.

Win it for Mackey Sasser, whose physiological ailment was so heart-wrenchingly sad that it was parodied in Major League II. Mackey, you were better than that crap sequel -- you were good enough for mockery in the first one.

Win it for Frank Viola, whose American League-style hitting once prompted then-broadcaster Mike Lupica to issue "he couldn't make contact with a boat oar" and "Bunting In the Dark with Frank Viola" within seconds of each other. Frank, 20 wins and no respect. Maybe it was the accent.

Win it for my brother-in-law Patrick, who is moving to Philadelphia just to escape the damnable Mets. It will just be so spiritually uplifting for me to insinuate that he was the jinx on the team this past decade.

Win it for Mike Piazza, who put his heart and soul into everything until he could give no more. When management took away his catcher's mask -- and bungled the PR process in doing so, he didn't gripe about it. Instead, he went out every day, made tons of mistakes at 1B, and hit like your average catcher until they saw the error of their ways and moved him back. When the fans accused him of being gay, he simply slept with an abundance of females hotter than his accusers could ever get -- even in porn form. And when they still accused, he went and married a beautiful, kind woman that fans of all ages can see naked on the Internet. Mike, even if the Mets don't win it for you, you've won, my friend.

Win it for Danny Heep, who, in a pivotal moment of the 1986 NLCS, pinch-hit for Rafael Santana with one on in the bottom of the ninth with the Mets down a run . . . and flied out weakly to center.

Win it for my Uncle Chris, who, after watching Danny Heep fly out weakly to center in a pivotal moment of the 1986 NLCS, wowed the extended family young and old with a shouted blurt of "Oh, Heep, you incredible faggot!"

Win it for Len Dykstra, who, in an even more pivotal moment of the 1986 NLCS, washed away the sins of Danny Heep and Uncle Chris in an instant, homering just a minute later to win the game. Lenny, when you said you'd never hit a home run that important outside of Strat-o-matic, I smiled. When you got traded to the Phillies for Juan Fucking Samuel, lost the '93 Series, and retired due to bodily breakdowns attributable to your "real good vitamins," I cried.

Win it for Juan Samuel. Sorry about the "Fucking," Juan, but let’s just call it even.

Win it for Darryl Strawberry, who's taken it upon himself to remind us that there are drug problems in baseball that aren't performance-enhancing. Thank you Darryl, you are a true American . . . Idiot.

Win it for Kevin McReynolds, Bret Saberhagen, and Jeff Kent, who, between the three of them, have a combined amount of upper-lip hair for one good moustache. Of course, there was also tragedy in their high level of talent squandered on middling Mets teams, but that mini-moustache thing was just weird.

Win it for my cousin Cameron; he just likes the Mets.

Win it for Todd Hundley, who has amassed $47 million playing baseball on the (supplemented) strength of a 41-homer season in 1996. The players who appeared before Congress are the lucky ones who benefited from steroids without repercussion, but the stories kids need to see are the Hundleys, Dykstras, and guys who fared even worse. Then again, Todd made $7M last year while not playing an inning (because of multiple surgeries on his back and hip), so what am I talking about?

Win it for Vince Coleman, who missed his first World Series when he was viciously attacked by a tarp, and his team barely lost (controversially) without him. Vince, though you are unfairly remembered only for your misunderstood gesture of hurling lit fireworks into a crowd of fans (injuring two young children), we know better. We'll remember you more completely: the horrible OBP, the stolen base every third Wednesday, the ejection every second Tuesday, the hitting of Doc Gooden with a golf club, the gang rape in Florida, etc. Actually, Mets, win it to make us forget him.

Win it for the clearly insane fellow in my work building who's a scary Mets fan. If you do win, he'll either come down off that mental ledge or he'll go ballistic and embark on the shooting spree we've been predicting since 1998 -- but I'll be out celebrating and will dodge that bullet.

Win it for Wally Backman, who, because of his experiences dealing with alcoholism and an erratically-behaving spouse, is not eligible to deal with major league ballplayers. Wally, this one's for you.

Win it for Bobby V, so he can finally take off those Groucho glasses in public.

Win it for every player who tried, tried so hard to break into the bigs with the Mets, but were ultimately undone by bad timing, freak accidents, poor decisions, and mainly that they just sucked way too bad to play big-league ball. These guys are the heroes who don't make the headlines, at least until they rob a diner, steal a car, evade the cops, and careen to their deaths in a ravine while hopped up on crystal meth. Such a waste.

Win it for HoJo, who in his day used more cork than Korbel. Forget steroids, this was cheating the old-fashioned way: fill your bat with illegal substances and grow a handlebar moustache. Baseball's founding fathers would be so proud.

Win it for Joe McIlvaine and Al Harazin, two GM's I wouldn't allow to assemble my pick-up beach wiffle ball team. When you have a book published about your era called "The Worst Team Money Could Buy," it's . . . it's not good.

Win it for Mel Rojas, who, God bless him, was so amazingly putrid during his year-plus with the Mets that he made the mediocre assortment of other relievers look almost halfway competent. So selfless like that.

Win it for Anna Benson and her ilk, and by that I don't mean players' wives but hot sluts.

Win it for Anthony Young, who . . . no, lose it for him, who lost more in two seasons than Charlie Brown lost in 50 years of comic strips. (Questionable who was more of a liability in the outfield helping those losses, though, Bobby Bo or Lucy Van Pelt.) I was always with you, A.Y., even when I was making up lies like Beck's "Loser" was actually written about you.

Win it for everyone who ever said, "The Mets suck," and so now I can tell them to fuck off.

Win it for Rey Ordóñez, who would've been DH'ed for instead of the pitcher in the AL, but complained about the "stupid" fans as if (a) added points to fans' IQ would in turn add points to his BA, and (b) he were the first to notice that New York fans' aren't brainy. Rey, in truth, I blame us, too -- for overhyping the snot out of you. Note to self: diving for every ground ball is not a great indicator of range.

Win it for Brian McRae, whom we mistakenly thought was Hal's son.

Win it for my 84-year-old grandmother, Joan, who stood by me in my times of baseball infidelity, and who still pulls for the Mets in Florida, Virginia, or wherever her Harley-Davidson has her right now.

Win it for Mo Vaughn, who at this point could buy one gold replica of the World Series trophy every day for six years just based on salary he earned for games he did not play. He was always my favorite player over 600 pounds.

Win it for Al Leiter, who would've been here if it weren't for that punk Kazmir playing rap music on the stereo. Al, as someone once said, it feels so empty without you.

Win it for Bobby Jones, and to a lesser degree, Bobby Jones.

Win it for John Franco, who followed David Weathers and Dan Wheeler in the New Life After Bottoming Out with the Mets program and signed with the Astros. He just missed a Series win in Cincinnati, and by 2000 he'd lost his closer job to Benitez. I revered him once upon a time, but I revered Simon LeBon once upon a time, too, and the lesson here is that I am an idiot. The bottom line is that he's got the years and the numbers to prove that he earned the right to stink up the joint and act like a jackass. Earned it.

Win it for my sister, Kate, who was 11 and uninterested at the time the Mets last won it all, but who since has endured the agony of the lean years with a persistent passion that makes me think she's on heroin. Seriously, Kate -- get help.

Win it for Tim Bogar, whose mention still makes me smile darkly, and who . . . that's pretty much it about him.

Win it for Armando Benitez, who blew Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, and while we would never want him to pull a Donnie Moore about it, he could at least punch himself in the face a lot, please. Armando, we hardly knew ye, but what we knew was flakier than dandruff cereal in the Yukon.

Win it for Jeff Torborg, who in no way saw the Mack truck of the Mets job that flattened him in the early 90's. You never really had a chance, and it just wasn't fair that you assured us you did.

Win it for Dan Wheeler, who was a victim of the cruel system of baseball where if you give up doubles off the wall and triples to the gap every other pitch, you get shipped out like yesterday's lunchmeat. Doesn't seem fair.

Win it for the three-headed dog that was Isringhausen-Pulsipher-Wilson. To steal from a pair of Brooklynites, if it weren't for disappointments, the 1990's Mets wouldn't have had any appointments.

Win it for Rickey Henderson, because, well, his ego isn't quite big enough.

Win it for the Wilpons, who have taken so much abuse of late for being complete and utter morons, and yet they persist in a steadfast way that says, "You don't know the half of it."

Win it for Carl Everett, another in the long line of guys who got good right after the Mets traded them away. Maybe, just maybe, the magical miracle that the 2005 Mets' World Series will be can help Carl find peace in the world, or at least convince him dinosaurs existed.

Win it for my friend Jeremy Flantzer, because if they win he'll probably have a huge party with lots of beer -- Coors Light, but beggars can't be choosers.

Win it for the Little Bulldog, Mike Hampton, because it's just not fair that after selling his soul to Colorado and wrangling a shady deal to land on the team that's won its division for every year since helmets were implemented, he hasn't gotten to win the World Series yet. Life is so cruel.

Win it for Bobby Bonilla, who couldn't leave well enough alone after re-defining "bust" in the Mets' media guide glossary, and came back for 60 games of .160/4/18 ball and a card-playing fiasco. You were my idol . . . I mean idle . . . right fielder.

Win it for Robby "Bait and Switch" Alomar, who just retired Saturday after taking his career from "sure-fire Hall of Famer" to "not so much," mostly while in New York. He would especially enjoy this -- not the winning of the World Series, but this teary, pouty discussion of it.

Win it for my mom . . .but you'd better not be talking about my mom.

Win it for Roger Cedeño, who beat the odds and made it to a World Series last fall with the Cardinals. Most memorable was during Game 1, when the fate of the Series was still in question and Cedeño came to the plate as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth with two out. (If for that managerial move only, Tony LaRussa will never be called "genius" on this site.) Roger struck out on three pitches.

Win it for Edgardo Alfonzo, who played his little heart out and left against his will, or at least against his will to be paid less than "market value." Fonzie gave the fans a little something with a goodbye ad on taxis, plus putting up Wigginton-ish numbers for two seasons. A certain joke here involving "Happy Days" and a certain fish currently terrorizing spring breakers on CBS would be too cheap even for our purposes.

Win it for William Hayward "Mookie" Wilson, who was a Met through years good and bad, then came back to coach, and as many don't know, is now the man inside Mr. Met. You are an all-timer, Mookie, and I still believe you when you said you would've beaten it out, anyway.

Win it for my Uncle Mike, who attended Mets Fantasy Camp in 1990, helped breed my love of all things Mets, but lost his big series to lymphoma in 1997. Every time the Mets blow a late lead and lose by 3, I can hear Mike howl, "For cryin' out loud!" So I get to hear from him often. Sorry you had to get lumped in with all this tongue-in-cheek crap, Mike, but maybe next time you won't stomp your six-year-old nephew in wiffle ball.

Win it for my Grampa Jack, who lies either on his death bed or a few rooms down from it. He's bled Dodger Blue and Giant orange (that'd be Met brown) since 1962 and he's only seen two World Championships. Although these titles have been astounding ones that fascinated the world -- of baseball and otherwise -- they simply don't measure up to the treasure trove of trash that has entered and left Shea since '86 (and beyond), with results on and off the field that wear away a man's soul. Grampa, if you're reading this, (1) stop stealing other people's computers, and (2) this year is going to be for you.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg -- there are tons more people for whom we can dedicate this season -- from the players who lost game after game so that they themselves never had a chance for such glory, to the management who put them together so ineptly, to the legions of fans who have repeatedly been suckered into false hope and loyally paid out thousands to follow the team. The collective term for these fair folks is "losers," of course, but it goes a bit deeper than that. Sorry, pitiful, pathetic, just sad: these are just a few of my favorite words to describe myself, my cohorts, and my team. And, well, you don't have to even belong to one of those three categories to be blubbering like a baby after reading this, right?

Do I get a book deal now?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Damn Dust

Nice to see that Whit's worked up to pitching from a mound in the later stages of Spring Training, MLC style. We were a bit concerned about his mental approach heading into the regular season, but - as always - a pint or 12 of good Irish stuff has him in nearly mid-season form. Good on you, lad.

Other far more qualified bloggers are swinging away at the Sox' outlook for the 2005 season, so we'll once again refrain from actually thinking or - god forbid - analyzing. Here's forewarning in advance of the upcoming campaign: I plan to be long on the abstract this year, and very short on cogent analysis. (Here's where you wonder what will be different.) While Whit follows what promises to be a very solid Mets squad, I get to ponder the larger questions of fandom - how does defending a World Series title feel after 30-odd years of "Wait 'til next year"? Hell, you might even get a haiku every now and again. (Not really - I can't do math well enough to count the syllables correctly.) Fandom without the burden - that's the meme in ought-five.

Rapidly shifting gears, causing the whole MLC payload to lurch violently as I get the clutch caught, the most emotional thing I've ever seen online is coming to a bookstore near you. The SOSH 'Win it for...' thread is being published in book form in time for opening day. I know that I will be purchasing it, and I know that it's highly unlikely that I'll get more than 4 pages into it before the waterworks begin. And I'm looking forward to it. Man, but those 2 weeks in October continue to resonate.

Ishii-it

Lefty pitcher Kaz Ishii comes to the Mets in a weekend trade for Jason Phillips.

The second thing that crossed my mind when I heard about the trade was "A lefty pitcher, nice." The third thing that crossed my mind was "So Piazza will definitely be doing all of the catching, because he's only got--" The fourth: "Who the hell is there to back up Piazza?" -- which, of course, can be taken more ways than one. The fifth: "Didn't Ishii get hit in the head with a line drive a couple of years ago?" The sixth: "And doesn't he have a lot of control problems since then?" The seventh: "Haven't the Mets had a couple a Japanese pitchers in the past, like Nomo and Yoshii, who've been largely forgettable?" The eighth: "And don't even get me started on Shinjo." The ninth: "Will it be confusing in the clubhouse with two guys named Kaz?" The tenth: "Didn't Jeff Wilpon get hit in the head with a line drive a couple of seasons ago?"

But the very first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about the trade was . . .

"What the hell is Gogs Is the Greek God of Geeks going to do now???"

And it's moments like that one -- thinking Mets-blog instead of reality -- that support the epiphany I had mid-afternoon last Thursday (well into St. Patrick's festivities, in case there was any wonder about my mental state at the time). Somewhere in a drunken debate with my Phillies friend Nick, who had previously hassled me mercilessly via e-mail in response to my waffling post of Mets v. Nats, it became clear which path I should take. The only thing I really recall is slurring "I just can't walk away from the Mets -- they're like a bad tattoo. At this point, it's forever, despite better judgment." And dammit, I know bad tattoos, man.

It feels good to be back. I hope the new look doesn't irritate too many readers who enjoyed the previous look, a style called "The Very First Weblog Ever." Thanks to the comrades who badgered me into staying put, including Mike at ECA. I appreciated it.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Low Height of Arrogance

We've been here before, but it's once again time for me to wax indignant about Peter Angelos' latest affront to sentient baseball fans in the mid-Atlantic region. On Sunday, Angelos wrote a letter in the form of a full-page ad in the Sports section of The Washington Post to outline the Orioles' position on their "rights" with regard to the newly arrived Nationals. Well, actually, Angelos hid behind his organization, signing the letter simply, "Orioles". What tiny, infinitessimal shred of respect I may have had for Angelos faded in the cowardice of that particular act.

I won't go into a great deal of detail about Angelos' position - The Post's Thomas Boswell does a fine job of that here - but I continue to be amazed by the Oriole owner's brazen disregard for the intelligence of the baseball fanbase in this region. Angelos doesn't own this territory any more than I do - he simply had a de facto monopoly based on lack of competition. More importantly, though, he seems to think that bluster and blunt language is all that's necessary to sway public and private opinion on the matter.

In years past baseball fans had little choice but to hold our noses and make the trek north in order to watch big-league ball. That's no longer true, and instead of recognizing that and working harder to make his organization competitive on the field and in the marketing arena, Angelos has chosen to ignore the will of his fellow owners and the people of the D.C. area and staked out an extreme position. His arrogance has served him well in the past, as his franchise value has accelerated even in the face of egregiously poor on- and off-field management, so it's easy to see why he might choose the most aggressive option in this situation. Easy to see, but still less than palatable.

Angelos has clearly made his choice, and now I've got one to make. As small a gesture as this may be, and as much as it may be more personally painful to me than to the multi-millionaire that runs the Orioles, I hereby resolve the following: I will no longer attend any Baltimore Oriole game while Peter Angelos owns the franchise. I'll get my major league baseball from the Nationals, or I'll go to Fenway when I'm in Boston, but even though it means I'll likely not get to see the Sox very often, I'm not going to Camden Yards while it remains under the stewardship of a man who cares not at all about anything more than his pocketbook.

My gesture may be a small, and ultimately empty one. Last year I'd have been certain of that. But my sense is that I'm not the only one, now that the Nationals are just down the road. I hope I'm right. See you at RFK.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

We Need a New Name for This Here Space

Overdue on this account, but the Misery Loves Company tagline, while blisteringly humorous in a cliched sort of not-very-clever way, really no longer makes sense. True, all of our readers are wallowing in the misery of deconstructing the internal workings of Whitney's psyche as translated recently - and immediately below. But that sort of misery can't last long - nor will the company if my partner can't remember that brevity is the soul of w(h)it. We kid because we love.

But the harsh facts remain; I'm no longer miserable. I couldn't be more ecstatic - even now. We're starting to see the beginnings of the inevitable backlash against Red Sox Nation, and I'm in full-on sticks and stones mode. You can say anything you'd like, and you can't take away Foulke to Mientkiewicz for all the marbles. I read an excerpt from Seth Mnookin's piece about the postseason in this month's Vanity Fair, and I got goosebumps and throatlumps all over again. Misery, I hardly knew ye.

I still like company, and Whit presumably still likes me, so maybe we could go with Misery Loves Company, even though Company's Becoming More and More Unbearable on the Subject of the World Champion Boston Red Sox with Each Passing Day, or MLCETCBMAMUOTSOTWCBRSWEPD for short. Or, we could go faux-clever-literary, with All Pedro's Children, or the far more obtuse All Mientkiewicz' Children. We could play it colorful with The Red and Orange Reader, but that just sucks out loud. We could pay homage to one of the great term papers of all time with I Call this Blog Canada, but that's so inside that it makes the Star Chamber look like the Chamber of Commerce. (Ed. - What the fuck is he talking about? Forget it, I think he's drunk.)

In any case, we've got about 3 weeks to figure this thing out. I'd tell you that your input is welcome, but we're still debating the wisdom of opening this debacle to commentary from the masses. If you really care - either one of you - shoot us an email via the links at the left. Until then, I'm the Artist Formerly Known as Miserable, signing off.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Metropolitan Museum vs. The National Gallery

As the off-season draws to a close in the coming weeks, it’s time to shake off the winter rust and start warming up. I was tempted to weigh in a couple of weeks ago with a pitchers & catchers witticism, and I think we’re all thankful that I refrained. Anyway, I guess I would have chimed in earlier if there were anything to discuss. Oh, wait. There is a pressing issue, I’ll go over in brief here. By in brief I mean in a long-winded, rambling, extremely verbose essay which can be summed up by a Steve Martin movie quote: “When you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea – have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!” All righty then. Enjoy!

Part of my recent absence can be attributed to the usual suspects – the slate of non-blogging matters in my day-to-day, general apathy, and the notion that Rob and I get the same off-season as the players we write about. Another element, however, has been gaining momentum and is the current leader of the Reasons Why This Blog Is Stale. In case you missed the blurb, there’s a new baseball team in Washington, DC. And its presence, more than any single event chronicled in the pages within Misery Loves Company (or whatever new moniker Rob has given this thing), has weakened my commitment to the Mets like never before.

To understand my deep internal struggle (You thought we couldn’t possibly muster overt melodrama in this embryonic a stage of the season? Ha!) of whether to exclusively root for the New York Mets or the Washington Nationals (hereafter referred to as Mets vs. Nats) requires a bit of background. If the decision seems a simple one to you, I can assure you it’s far from it. In addition to being one with blog-altering consequences – as well as one which potentially carries with it the snub of extended family and the disdain of purist friends and colleagues – it’s a battle whose victor will either make a hypocrite or turncoat out of me. But let’s face it . . . I’ve been called worse . . . today . . . by people I hardly know.

Whither the Nats? The most obvious factor in the Washington Nationals’ favor is the geography. It’s the convenience of my proximity to the club, but it’s even more the ability to root for “the hometown team.” This is a luxury not previously bestowed upon me on such a level; cheering on the AAA Tides in Norfolk or quietly rooting for the Red Sox (while more vocally lamenting the Mets) while summering on Cape Cod doesn’t really measure up to what I could enjoy in the District in 2005. I’ve waited all my life to either relocate to New York City or get a team in Washington. I can also be among the first denizens of DC to don the W-cap (and not have it mean anything Presidential) and pull my ever-enlarging weight.

Those of you who’ve actually muddled through the 513 previous posts here know how much I begged, pleaded, demanded, cursed, condescended, prayed, hoped, wished, shouted, believed, despaired, drank, insisted, argued, evinced, lied, aggrandized, overstated, satirized, mocked, derided, threatened, and blathered on incessantly about the necessity of the relocation of the Montreal Expos to the (this) nation’s capital. Well, it finally . . . finally happened. It’s what I asked for, it’s what I told Bud Selig fans like me would paid to see, and it’s everything that I wanted, except that the team is pretty putrid right now. Part of me deludes myself, feels partly responsible for their relocation here, and intends to support them just as I said we would. Another part of me wishes the delusional part of me would stop talking to strangers in mens’ rooms.

The question really isn’t whether I’ll support the Nationals; of course I will. The question is whether it will be in the subtle, general way that I’ve supported the Baltimore Orioles over the past decade or in a full-blown conversion way that ousts the Mets as my A-number-1 team. Do I dare dump the Mets after so long? And if I don’t clip them outright, how do I reconcile the fact that two of “my” teams are competing in the same division? Something has to give.

Dump the Mets? There are a number of reasons to give the Metropolitans their unconditional release. I wish there were some tangible evidence as to how frustrated I’ve become over the past few years with the Mets. [Oh, wait.] The Mets players, coaches, executives, and owners have displayed ineptitude galore, offset only a tad by tiny flashes of competence. From the overpaid, underachieving players to the overpaying, dunderheaded ownership tandem, it’s been a series of incidents to pull your hair out over, and my pate is begging for some relief. Though the Nat’ls are a lock to finish 15+ games south of the Mets this year, there’s simply nothing they can do that would madden me quite the way the jokers from Queens have.

The long-distance relationship the Mets and I have shared for years is taxing, too. I had been all revved up to fork over another couple hundred bucks for the baseball package to see an additional 80 or 90 Mets games this summer; then the Commish made it official, and though the TV deal isn’t yet inked (thank you very much, Peter Angelos, you limitless prick), I’m pretty sure there will be countless opportunities to catch free Nationals action on the tube. And as for going to games – one of the most enjoyable outings I know – the random game-a-season or less at Shea will be supplanted by regular trips to RFK. This newfound convenience is not, on its own, a reason to change horses, but as added bonuses go, it’s not a paltry one.

Another perk in ending my Met-induced madness would be getting to reduce my hypocrisy in the area of big-money-baseball-bashing. I’ve been firing bitter insults the Yankees’ way for their ludicrously engorged payroll for years (though I’m not the only one, even on this site); the plain fact is that my team has nearly as limitless a bankroll, but with far lesser results to show for it. This winter saw a closing of the gap between the New York franchises’ payrolls, even as the Yankees burst through previously mocked ceilings of check-writing and skewed playing fields. [There are even greater similarities between Rob’s Sox and the Yanks in this department, but that’s for his conscience to rationalize, not mine.]

So, between the high-rolling, low-appeal owners, the big-name bats and arms, and the common New York locale, the Mets are essentially Yankee wanna-bes, aren’t they? Well, in truth, their players – minus Pedro Martinez – are far more likeable. Around the horn alone you’ve got significantly more appeal (outside of the Bronx) on the Mets’ side, despite the omnipresence of those Yanks on your TV screen. It’s not a bad group of guys in Met-town, Pedro aside. And you can really get behind Willie Randolph – and Omar Minaya seems to have some inkling about what he’s doing, and Team Wilpon will never be the ugly pigdog that Big Stein is. Uh oh, I’m wavering already.

The single strongest reason not to shelve my Mets apparel (though abandoning the not-quite-Reese’s tandem of Dodger blue and Giant orange) is one of principle. I have always chastised bandwagoners, fair-weather fans, and arbitrary ship-jumpers, and this move could – somewhat, as I’ll contend – place me among the third entry among that treasure-trove trio of treason. I’ve seen people hop along from one club to the next as if favorite teams are akin to favorite songs, or even girlfriends, and so clearly they are not. As Rob mentioned, another blog has taken on the challenge of quantifying when and if it’s allowable to swap allegiances, but all along I’ve been something of a hard-line conservative on the matter. I’ve pulled for the Washington Redskins since before I can remember, through thick and a lot of thin. I had no significant hockey or college team of choice (excepting William & Mary, which is AAA-ball at best), so when I moved to DC, I threw halfhearted and moderate support behind the Caps and Terps, respectively. I was a Sixers fan growing up, but by the time I left college, the entire reason I was a fan (Erving comma Julius) had retired and my NBA interest had waned, so the underdog Bullets – they of the 22 wins and $11 tickets -- soon became my team. And then there’s baseball.

The Mets became my team at birth, as I was ordained a Mets fan by the maternal side of my family and dressed in (wool flannel) Mets uniforms (in the summertime) by my (nothing short of torturous) uncles in Tuxedo Park, NY. And here I stand in 2005 a hardened Mets fan. A life of Met fandom, right? Well . . . the era I casually omit on my baseball fan résumé, of course, is the period of 1977-1982, and it makes me cringe to type it, when I was a fan of the (ugh) New York Yankees.

There isn’t much to tell: I was six; the Yanks were great; the Mets were lousy; I jumped ship; my family ostracized me; my grandmother followed my lead just to protect me; Reggie Jackson was my favorite player; I got a Yankees uniform; I got all of the stars’ autographs when my grandmother stood on a dugout at spring training and groveled; I made myself sick on Reggie! bars; I went to a game at Yankee Stadium even after the tickets were picked from my grandfather’s pocket on the subway en route and scalped – the family later accused him of selling them or dropping them intentionally – but my grandmother (there’s a box seat reserved for this woman in heaven, I tell you) cried to the usher and knew our seat numbers and we got in; I had every Yankee baseball card in triplicate; my uncle made me cry when he told me he’d caught a Reggie home run at the Stadium and given the ball to some little kid; and the Yanks won two championships. Then . . . (deep breath) in what I’d once figured impossible, the Yankees didn’t make the postseason; then lost an ALCS to the Royals; then lost a World Series to the Dodgers; more significantly, I was 11 and old enough to know to loathe George Steinbrenner (I buried his autograph beneath Fred Stanley’s); Reggie Jackson became an Angel – and I felt relief instead of sadness; the team was infested with former enemies (Tommy John, John Mayberry, Butch Hobson, etc.); meanwhile, players I’d seen in Tidewater uniforms were now starring for the Mets; the Mets still sucked, but they were loveable while the Yankees were growing despicable; and somewhere along the way I saw the light. Okay, I guess there was a lot to tell.

What I learned in that formative stint was the enormous emotional difference between rooting for the underdog versus rooting for the big bully. Everyone expected the Yankees to win; when they did, it was pretty fun, but when they didn’t, it was constant bitterness. Meanwhile, across town, every one of the 65 wins per summer was met with a sliver of glee, for it never seemed likely. Sure, every October meant picking a new club like the Milwaukee Brewers to support on a temporary basis, but sad-sack status keeps the pressure low and the slapstick high. Then, when the club does turn it around, it’s that much more gratifying.

In hindsight, it was a fortuitous maneuver, as I only had to endure one more lousy Mets season under Bambi Bamberger. After that, Frank Cashen began making a series of moves that elevated his legacy to utter genius, Davey Johnson started his brilliant managerial run, and the good times started to roll. I took a ration of abuse from uncles and such for my hiatus from the Metwagon, but after a couple of years I’d regained my accepted status as Mets fan and swore allegiance to Mr. Met, Ralph Kiner, Mookie Wilson, Shea Stadium, and all things New York Mets. After the unthinkable 1986 –

Although, just to digress and drag this post out interminably, Peter Gammons was recently spotted on an ESPN ad promoting their Disney World weekend (see our bashing of such events a number of months back) telling Cinderella, “The ’86 Mets, now that was a Cinderella story,” but that’s not really true, now is it? The Mets won 90 games in 1984, 98 in 1985 (3rd best in MLB), and had pretty much the same team intact going into the ’86 season, minus Calvin Schiraldi and plus Bobby Ojeda. (See “Frank Cashen . . . genius.”) They were poised to win, and that they did for the entire season. Well, they did start out 2-3, and found themselves several games behind the defending NL champion Cardinals after St. Louis exited the gate 7-1, but the Cards then dropped nine of ten while the Mets revved it up. New York took over first place on April 23, led by 5 games a week later, and never looked back. When they won it all in October, that simply wasn’t a Cinderella story. The ’69 Amazin’ Mets, who made up 27 games in going from 9th to 1st in consecutive seasons, now there’s your Cinderella story. Pick it up, Peter – I don’t care if it was a script handed to you, you know better. Um . . . anyway . . .

. . . after the remarkable but not wholly unpredictable 1986, there were a few more years of exciting contention, and then a quick regression to the depths seen in the sixties and late seventies. Except it was different. Those weren’t the hapless but hilarious Casey’s Mets; they weren’t even the somewhat likeable Joe Torre’s Mets. They were Torborg’s terribles and Dallas’s delinquents, vastly underachieving squads compiled by the quickly forgotten Al Harazin and Joe McIlvaine. They were Vince “M-80” Coleman, post-payday Bobby Bo, still-surly Eddie Murray, Todd “At Juicy Juice our products are made from 100% juice” Hundley, and a laundry list of young busts. These teams set records, but not the ones you want: a record-setting $45 million payroll in 1992 (wow . . . 13 years later, the Yanks approach 6 times that) that led to 72 wins, and Anthony Young losing 27 games in a row, which still dumbfounds me as I type it. The Mets made it excruciating to root for them in earnest, but I didn’t turn my back on them. Not only did I watch, endure, and don the colors, I went so far as to replay the strike-shortened (kill it before it gets really bad) ’94 Mets season repeatedly on APBA computer baseball with my MLC cohort, grinding out losses while I skippered the squad. (Trust me, you can tinker with that lineup all you want, it’s a physical impossibility to top .500.) It was all demoralizing, but I never strayed. I went to Orioles games in the mid-90’s and saw what good teams with real character look like, but I’ve still never worn O-apparel. (For the record, Baltimore fans, the goofy old Oriole cap is way better than the classy, older/newer, science book model.) The bottom line was I stuck by my team because that’s what you do.

That paid off at the end of the decade, and although at this point the winning seasons of ’97-’00 seem just an infinitesimal blip on the radar, they were good years in Metville. That awesome infield, the 1-2 of Hampton/Leiter, Piazza in his prime, Benitez successfully staving off his on-the-mound demons, Rickey and Bobby Bo . . . oops, scratch that last part. Anyway, the reward was fleeting, and it was quickly back to dues-paying drudgery. Seems like a lot to demand of the fans, and that’s for a big-market team with a chance – what the Pirates and Tigers ask of their fans is almost completely unreasonable. The last two years offered me another chance to slip silently into the realm of non-Met-fandom, but rather than tune out, as it’d be easy to do from this (disad)vantage point in DC, I signed up for the figurative equivalent of punching myself in the eye on a daily basis, a.k.a. Misery Loves Company. Never considered the best decision-maker by others, at this point I even question myself.

After all of this history, and especially after rejuvenating my status via this blog for the last two years, it just seems like it would be very difficult to tender my resignation and move on, despite the obvious logic behind it. I was told by friends in a bar a week ago that making the leap into Nationals territory was perhaps acceptable, if I did indeed leave the Mets behind for good. And this is where I have trouble pulling the trigger. Turning my back on them cold turkey is nearly impossible. Deep down, I want to follow them as they try to contend for a title instead of pulling for the cellar-bound Nationals. Almost as appealing is the hotbed of sinister humor this big-budget blockbuster edition of the New York Mets could be if and when they falter; the bigger your payroll is, the harder you fall, journalistically speaking. This club is ripe for ripping after thrusting themselves back into the media spotlight, and that’s usually where I come in. Give all of that up?

At the same time, I do understand that the time is now or never for the switch. The purist in me says that leaving the contending Mets for the bottom-feeding N’s (still feeling my way around for a nickname that works) is a small show of integrity, illustrating that clearly it cannot be a bandwagoner’s cry of “So, who’s good this year?” I could get in with the Nationals on the ground floor and start paying my dues once again while checking out with my Mets while they’re potentially positioned for a postseason run. But . . . then again . . . aaaaaaaargh!!!

I’m at a crossroads, for sure, and I’ve taken advice from Rob, other Mets fans, and fellow members of the blog community. (Mike at East Coast Agony was especially instructive . . . and just because this is now approaching 3,000 words, another digression – the ECA guys called me out for be in absentia for “much of last season,” but there’s evidence here to the contrary – I was stalwart until September, dammit!) It’s still not clear which way I’m leaning, and after all of this pseudo-rational analysis, I’m pretty sure it’s going to come down to an instinctive reaction the first time I watch the Mets and Nationals square off. Yes, I know, they did exactly that two days ago, but I was unable to watch the game online or in a bar (damn this job). So the jury is still out.

I do know this: I probably can’t keep myself away from blogging ad nauseum about the roller-coaster ride that is the New York Mets. Strange things are afoot at Misery Loves Company, what with my no-longer-miserable comrade and my split interest, but it may be worth checking in once in a while to see how we’re coping. Or not.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Slackjawed, and Not Much to Say

Channeling Men at Work this morning, while trying hard to resemble one. This entry is really just a futile attempt to keep a little off-season momentum going here at MLC. We've never been really long on analysis - random venting and ill-informed sniping is more our ouevre - and Spring Training mostly lends itself to detailed, forward-looking essays on our teams' prospects. Suffice it to say that Whit and I won't be doing that - many others are both more inclined and better at it.

I will say, in the spirit of our long-running wager (and thank you, Whit, for the case of Harpoon - it was delicious), that I'm pegging the Sox for 98 wins again this season. I predicted that total before 2004, and was, ahem, exactly right. While I believe the 2005 Sox are capable of exceeding last year's total, there's enough health risk in the pitching staff to temper any wildly enthusiastic predictions. Whit, I await your prognostication for whichever team you decide to support in 2005.

Running debate over at Jerry's Wheelhouse about when/if/whether it's acceptable to exchange your fandom for a franchise, and if so, under what circumstances. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to maintain any level of passion for multiple teams. First, my interest in the Washington Wizards (and the NBA in general) cooled after the league's work stoppage in the early 90s. I haven't watched a full NBA game in over 10 years, even though I love basketball. Then, more recently, the Boston Bruins began to fade out of my life, before their league simply cratered. Finally, and currently, I find myself wholly ambivalent about the Washington Redskins.

I despise current Redskins ownership for their thinly veiled worldview of their fanbase as nothing but reliable dupes willing to serve as no-limit ATM terminals and their fantasy football approach to franchise building. But I'm starting to wonder if my diminishing passion for my home town 11 is related to the euphoria I experienced in October. Even when they were winning Super Bowls, the Redskins never gave me the emotional lift that I got from the Sox in 2004 - and got as recently as last night, when I came across the official MLB 2004 World Series film on ESPN Classic. Now, I really wonder I'm capable of caring that much about any team, save the Sox. Frankly, I cared a lot more about my fantasy football squad's performance last year than I did about that of the 'Skins.

It's an interesting phenomenon, because I find that I love sports in general every bit as much as I ever did. I'm banished to my bedroom most nights because I want to watch college hoops while my wife rots her brain with The Bachelorette. I watch a lot more ESPNews than I do network television. I still get a huge kick out of watching the games - I just care a lot less about the outcomes, with one notable exception. Food for thought, anyway.